March 28, 2011

Linkbacker U. is entertained by Trouble in Tuscaloosa and Tresseltown

"LINEbacker U"... "LINKbacker U"... Get it?
(Photo: AP/
After a few months off, we're bringing back Linkbacker U, our version of your standard morning link dump post. Is throwing a bunch of interesting but not really important news links into a post unique to this blog? Surely not. But is the name just too good to not use it for a link dump post every few days? Absolutely.

You will probably get some kind of Penn State football news in these updates. But the main purpose is not to cover what's going on with the Nittany Lions. Since we're going to cover PSU spring practice as a stand-alone topic over the next few weeks, we can devote Linkbacker U to covering all the news that would be considered interesting in some way to Penn State fans, but not urgent enough to have its own individually dedicated post. Make sense?

So without wasting any more space on your screen, let's have at it. Welcome, to Linkbacker U: 2011.


Izzy Gould, The suspensions are piling up in Tuscaloosa. Though it's still early, there are some big-name players dealing with off-field issues this spring. Could affect the fall, who knows?
Alabama sophomore Brandon Moore has been suspended indefinitely for breaking team rules, Saban announced Saturday afternoon. The 6-foot-5, 309-pound sophomore missed the past two practices.

Moore joins defensive back Robby Green, who has not practiced this spring due to an indefinite suspension. After a redshirt season in 2009, Moore had three tackles in four games in 2010.
Don Kausler Jr. (video), Bama safety Mark Barron--who forced the fumble on Chaz Powell last season inside the Tide red zone--was also arrested last week, but the situation kind of fizzled as Nick Saban did not issue a suspension:
Alabama coach Nick Saban addressed the weekend arrest of strong safety Mark Barron in Mobile, saying the player made a poor decision in dealing with law enforcement.

Saban also talked about Barron's recovery from a torn muscle that he suffered in the first half of an Iron Bowl loss to Auburn.
Ohio State

By now, we all know the background story. Tat-gate led to suspensions for Buckeyes players next year. But then Jim Tressel was caught lying when he said he didn't know about the violations. He got suspended for two games; Tressel himself upped that to five games, the same as his players. Well, turns out it's not over. In fact, it's getting worse, MUCH worse for Tressel and Ohio State. Remember Ted Sarniak? I do. And so does everyone else who has been skeptical of Ohio State's recruitment of Terrelle Pryor. The latest from CBS:
The Columbus Dispatch is reporting that when Tressel received the famous emails of warning regarding his players selling memorabilia to a local tattoo parlor, he forwarded them to a man close to star quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Ted Sarniak, 67, is described as “a prominent businessman in Pryor’s hometown of Jeanette, Pa.” Sarniak has acted as Pryor’s mentor and advisor since high school, and reportedly was the recipient of the warning emails when they were forwarded by Tressel.

In the news conference to announce the violations against Tressel, the coach nodded when asked if he had forwarded the emails. He was quickly cut short by athletic director Gene Smith, and has maintained that the reason he kept the information to himself was to protect his players and the confidentiality of the federal investigation against the owner of the tattoo parlor.
Chris adds:
Trying to ratchet back my trollgaze, but Ramzy’s right (as always, practically). This is just sloppy to the extreme. Tressel doesn’t go to either of Pryor’s parents, and doesn’t tell Gene Smith or the compliance people, but goes straight to Sarniak? The shady, cop-bribing handler whose glass business suddenly blew up when Pryor magically ended up at Ohio State?

That’s sloppy, I’m-above-the-law type stuff. It’s on the magnitude of Scarface in front of a mountain of coke. When Gordon Gee jokingly said at the recent disasterous Ohio State press conference that he hopes Tressel doesn’t fire him, perhaps he wasn’t being as funny as he thought.
And if this were the Pac 10/12, Ohio State would be treading dangerously close to the "Lack of Institutional Control" category of violations. This could become very, very bad for the Buckeyes.

Time Capsule

And finally for this morning, let's take a trip back to a few weeks before my third birthday. January 4, 1987 - New York Times: College Football; Salute to Penn State Defense, by Malcolm Moran.
The problems created by Miami's poor field position were compounded by a defensive scheme developed since late last November. The plan of Jerry Sandusky, the linebacker coach, depended on a consistent three-man rush against a reshaped and healing offensive line; a steady three-man deep zone that defied Miami to throw long and quickly converged to punish the Hurricanes for shorter receptions; a variety of blitzes to make Testaverde think; plus the frequent and surprising insertion of Keith Karpinski, Shane Conlan's replacement, as an extra linebacker.

What could give Linebacker U. a chance? What else? More linebackers.
(Malcolm Moran was my sports writing prof at PSU. Thought I'd give him a little hat-tip this fine morning.)

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  1. PSU actually played a 2-5-4 during much of the Fiesta Bowl against Miami with Conlan playing a deep middle linebacker/rover (which led to his 2 interceptions including the 1 that set up the winning score). The base defense in 1986 was a 3-4 as it was throughout much of the 1980's. Given the inuries and lack of depth at D Line along with the strength in numbers at linebacker perhaps a return to the 3-4 is called for this coming season.

  2. EXCELLENT points, Chuck. Seriously, how great would it be to see Penn State actually change up its base defense this season (or, just tweak it a bit) to better utilize the personnel on this team? I'm not saying Penn State should completely throw out what it does on defense. I'm just agreeing with Chuck that using more creativity for each opponent would be refreshing. But who thought "refreshing" would mean traveling BACK 30 YEARS?

  3. It is a refreshing thought, but I don't think PSU has the current personnel for a switch. Essential in a 3-4 is a BEAST of a NT (Mount Cody, Casey "Big Snack" Hampton on the Steelers, etc), not to mention the 4 athletic linebackers that would have to play slightly different roles than in a 4-3. We'd have to recruit to a 3-4 for a couple of years, but I don't NOT like the idea.

  4. Penn State plays a lot of 3-3-5, but most casual obvservers don't realize it. Not saying you'll see it more often than not, obviously. But Penn State definitely has experience playing with three down linemen and a (usually) blitzing linebacker. Just even back in 2008/09 with Jerome Hayes, he was a stand-up DE/LB hybrid, giving PSU essentially a 3-4-4 defense. When PSU does go into a 3-3-5, it could be more accurately described as a 3-safety nickel package. So I'm not entirely sure PSU would have to change up its personnel that much to make a move this season to better exploit the athleticism at linebacker. Honestly, how fantastic would it be to see Nate Stupar, Gerald Hodges, Khairi Fortt, and Mike Mauti out there at the same time?

  5. I'd love to see them go to the 1-9-1 lineup, given their recent recruitment of linebackers (Stupar, Mauti, Hodges, Carson, Hull, Fortt, Royer, Kline all on the field at the same time?).